Insane Asylums


Insane Asylums

Insane asylums were extremely popular in the 1800s. Many times husbands would send their wives there, for reasons like clinical depression, mood swings and even menopause. Many times woman were sent there for not being obedient enough to their husbands. Their key role in a family was a home maker. Basically a servant to their family. Being in an asylum wasn't considered as drastic as it is now. Doctors often just didn't know how to help their patients with depression or alcoholism, so they sent them into the asylum. Besides the asylums being unsanitary. The doctors were often quite oblivious between the actions of the patients. Often patients harassed and beat each other. The overall environment of the asylum was hectic and not safe. There were dirty linens, rancid food and freezing cold baths. Some patients were completely sane, but were sent there for the sole purpose of people not understanding them. So for them these conditions were almost torture. This led to reforms being made in the 1800's.

Dorothea Dix:

Dorothea traveled 60,000 miles in eight years to create reports on insane asylums from observations. After her travels, she went to the Massachusetts Legislature with the "Petition of 1843" describing the horrific living conditions. She also asked for state for funding and support with care of the patients. The result was a change in the environment (living conditions). Also, people started understanding that being mentally ill was a disease, not a choice. .

Dr. Galt:

superintendent of eastern Lunatic asylum, he presented a revolutionary idea that the insane had dignity. One of the first people to use drugs, talk therapy, and non-permanent stays.  

This movement for reforms heightened humanitarianism (an ethic of kindness, benevolence, and sympathy extended universally and impartially to all human beings).

Memorial to the Legislature of Massachusettes

"About two years since leisure afforded opportunity, and duty prompted me to visit several prisons and alms-houses in the vicinity of this metropolis. I found, near Boston, in the Jails and Asylums for the poor, a numerous class brought into unsuitable connexion with criminals and the general mass of Paupers. I refer to Idiots and Insane persons, dwelling in circumstances not only adverse to their own physical and moral improvement, but productive of extreme disadvantages to all other persons brought into association with them. I applied myself diligently to trace the causes of these evils, and sought to supply remedies."

"I proceed, Gentlemen, briefly to call your attention to the present state of Insane Persons confined within this Commonwealth, in cages, closets, cellars, stalls, pens! Chained, naked, beaten with rods, and lashed into obedience!"

This is the report that Dorthea Dix gave to the Massachusetts legislature after she visited several insane asylums. It describes the terrible conditions that mentally ill people are forced to live in everyday.

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